The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Thursday voiced their concern with President Barack Obama's proposed budget, which includes an increase in the public lands grazing fee assessment.
Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands, said increasing the grazing fee through taxation is "evidence that the president and his administration are out of touch with production agriculture and rural economies of the west."
Specifically, the president's budget calls for the BLM and USFS to impose a $1 per animal unit month increase above the grazing fee to cover administrative costs.
Van Liew said the proposal was no surprise, since the administration has filed a similar proposal before. The latest offering includes Bureau of Land Management permittees and the U.S. Forest Service.
"Judging by the president's plan to levy a 74% tax on the grazing fee and make extreme cuts in BLM and USFS range funding, we think it's safe to say this administration does not understand American agriculture," Van Liew said, adding that farmers and ranchers are willing to pay their fair share for the opportunity to graze public lands.
"The current grazing fee is fair. In fact, most public lands ranchers already pay market price for their federal forage, when considering factors such as added regulatory costs, increased predation, ownership and maintenance of water rights and improvements and the difficulties of managing livestock in rough, arid rangelands," he added.
Van Liew said increasing the grazing fee via a tax will simply impose unnecessary costs on ranchers and ranching families.
"Effectively increasing the grazing fee during these times of economic uncertainty will unnecessarily increase burdens on livestock producers and hamper their ability to create jobs and generate economic growth in their communities. We are not going to stand by and let that happen," Van Liew said.